What You Need to Know About All Things MLM

I didn’t really want to write this post. I know it’s going to offend someone and leave a few people disillusioned with whatever program they’re doing or product they’re taking. I know that my friend requests are about to go down as people stop adding me for the sole sake of “getting me on their team.”

My “friends” might not want to be “friends” anymore because I’m not a proud supporter of whatever it is they’re selling or whatever means they’re using to do it. But we need to talk about MLMs because things have gotten out of hand and nobody’s going to give it to you straight. I’m talking about multi-level marketing companies, which are companies that use referral marketing, direct sales, and non-employed distributors (or consultants) to sell their products.

There isn’t a single person who doesn’t know what I’m talking about because we all have people in our newsfeed promoting their business and long-lost friends who message us out of nowhere pretending to suddenly care so they can sell us something. (Wait … did I just say that?)

I am not an MLM hater. I’m not going to accuse you of being part of some pyramid scheme or discount every product that’s part of one. I view an MLM structure as one of many ways to market a product and believe that the people who do the marketing should get paid for their efforts. My problem is in how it’s done, whose doing it, and the annoying tactics that are sometimes used to sign people up for products that are literal J-U-N-K.

Whether you’re someone who’s thinking about trying a product from an MLM company, were duped by a magical supplement, or are considering becoming a distributor, you should read this post so that you can tell whether a product is everything it’s cracked up to be or whether you should run from a rep.

Tip #1: Watch out for companies, products, and reps who make extreme claims and promise extreme results.

If someone is telling you that their magic pink drink will make you drop 10 pounds in a week, that wrapping yourself in the equivalent of expensive plastic wrap will melt inches off your waist, that you can get nutrients of 30 fruits and vegetables in one tiny pill, or that your health can be cured by whatever it is they’re selling … they’re wrong.

That pink drink is sub par and will eat your muscles, wreck your metabolism, and prime you for extreme weight gain; that little pill isn’t going to give you what a good diet does; you might get all of the nutrients but you won’t absorb them, and a wrap will not make you lose fat – only a caloric deficit will do that. Extreme claims are designed to make sales. It’s as simple as that.

Tip #2: Watch out for products that claim to be the ONLY solution to something.

You’ll see this a lot with supposed superfoods, supplements, and shakes. A company will claim that they discovered a new magical berry hidden in some remote region of the world that nobody has ever tapped into and charge a small fortune for it, or it might be a serum that claims to grow lashes; or a shake that positions itself as the only solution to your weight-loss woes.

This type of marketing plays on your problem and positions itself as the only solution for it, but the truth is … there’s always more than one solution and 9 times out of 10, it can be done for less money, through proper diet, sleep, and exercise, or via a much less expensive and higher quality supplement.

Tip #3: Does the person selling the product look the part?

This is one of the first things I look at when someone approaches me with an MLM product (or any other product for that matter). Does the rep practice what they preach? Do they have the results you’re hoping to achieve and do they lead a healthy lifestyle? I can’t count the number of people I’ve seen promoting weight loss products who are significantly overweight, fitness products without ever having stepped foot in a gym, giving nutrition advice without understanding the fundamentals of nutrition, or promoting health and wellness products they literally know nothing about because they’ve led a healthy lifestyle for an entire five minutes.

If a rep has the body, health, or lifestyle you want, then it might be worth finding out what they did to achieve it, but if they’re promoting products and making claims that are inconsistent with what’s in front of you, then err on the side of caution.

Tip #4: Avoid products that promise quick weight-loss results.

Seriously, you can make yourself lose 10 pounds in 10 days through shakes and starvation, but this is stupid. Good companies and smart people know that weight-loss isn’t as simple as the number on the scale. It requires a caloric deficit, fat loss, muscle preservation, tailored macronutrients, optimized micronutrients, and helping people lose fat without compromising their health. If you’ve lost 10 pounds in 10 days, it’s because you lost a lot of water, some of your muscle, but very little fat.

Tip #5: Avoid products that claim to replace what only a good diet can give you.

Supplements that replace fruits and veggies? No. Fake shakes that replace meals? No. Supplements or multivitamins that promise you the equivalent of what eating 30 fruits and vegetables can give you? No. There are no shortcuts and supplements are just that … supplements to a legit diet.

Tip #6: Is the person whose raving to you about the product also a rep?

When someone tells me they heard about a supplement that promises to fix whatever it is that ails them and asks whether they should take it … my first question is whether the person recommending it is a rep. Why? Because there’s automatic bias. A rep isn’t going to tell you the downsides of the product. They aren’t going to tell you what it’s lacking, what could go wrong, or what the alternatives are. That doesn’t mean you can’t take it, that just means you might need to do more research and look for objective opinions.

Tip #7: Question anyone who says you can get rich working for an MLM.

I know … you’ve been told you could quit your job, help your family supplement its income working from home, and could even earn a new car. No … just all sorts of “no.” It’s true that you can hit it big repping an MLM (I have legit friends who have), but most people don’t, and you probably won’t and I’m the good friend whose going to give you full disclosure before you dive in so you don’t set yourself up for unreasonable expectations.

Do you know how many people actually get wealthy repping an MLM? 2%. Go ahead and look that up. You’re being promised a trip and a shiny new car, so you’ll sign up. The truth is, you’ll have startup costs, monthly orders you’re required to make, taxes to pay, up front costs in hosting parties, and time that goes uncompensated in managing your social, answering emails, and working with potential clients. If you can’t work it into your current business model (say … you’re already a chiropractor, natural health practitioner, or functional medicine doctor), you’re probably going to make more working at McDonald’s. And if that’s okay with you, then disregard everything I just said. (Some people do actually rep for funzies.)

Tip #8: Are the rave reviews in the comment thread of the person promoting their business made by reps of the same company?

This is a new marketing tactic that you need to watch out for. Someone in your newsfeed will post about their business, product, or sale, and everyone else will chime in with how “amazing” the product is, how it has “changed their life,” how “excited” they are and how they live and breathe by this company.

Here’s the thing though, if you click on these comments you’ll find that 9 times out of 10, they are reps for the same company and often in the downline of the person posting. This creates excitement and demand for a product, makes it appear that everyone is using it, that it’s a hot product, and that you need to have it too. It’s also a great way for reps to support each other and increase the buzz around their business.

You can be truly excited about a product, company, or mission … I get it. But before you get excited because everyone else is doing it, look to see whether their allegiance is to the same product or company too.

Tip #9: Does the company offer any products containing folic acid?

Oh, but it’s only in that one product. I don’t care if it’s in one product or all of the products. Everyone knows that folic acid is bad for you. If a company has ANY supplements that contain it, they’re either not up-to-date on the latest research or they value profit over health.

Tip #10: Is the product something that would require one to have additional training or expertise?

This is a big one. I’m talking about people promoting essential oils who have had no training in aromatherapy, people who are promoting nutritional products and detox programs who have no understanding of nutrition and are not equipped to handle potential side-effects, and those who literally wake up one day and decide to sell a health and wellness product who don’t even know what kale is.

Now, I’m not saying you absolutely have to have training to sell something, because you don’t (and I’m not the MLM police). I know people who are not aromatherapists but have committed so much time, training, and study to the field that they probably know just as much (if not more) than those who are. And there are certainly some things you don’t need special training to sell like books, cosmetics, or clothes.

But when it comes to nutrition, supplements, and anything health and wellness, I look for people who have a solid foundation in natural health and can give me more information than what’s in the start-up materials companies pass out when people sign up as a rep. I want someone who can take my health history into account and make the right recommendations, even if those include supplements they’re not selling.

Tip #11: Do your research.

A lot of companies will claim that their products are backed by clinical studies but 9 times out of 10, these studies are done by their own company and used exclusively to market their own products. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s hard to get government funding to study anything natural, but what you should do is look to see if there is any other research available and whether it conflicts with principles that we know are well established.

Tip #12: Look at the label.

I can’t stress this enough. Whether it’s a cream, a shake, a tea, or a supplement, you have to look at the label. If the ingredients are not natural, sustainably sourced, organic (if possible), or non-toxic … I’m not touching it, selling it, or recommending it. Look up products being recommended to you in the “Think Dirty” app or on the Environmental Working Group’s website. Ask a natural health practitioner (or a few) for their opinion and look for the reviews online to get unbiased opinions.

Tip #13: Be honest.

Do unsolicited private messages or sale pitches make you uncomfortable? It’s okay to admit it and it’s okay to “just say no.” You can decline an invitation to a party and tell someone it’s just not your thing. You’re not obligated to join, buy, or sell anything. It’s also okay to ask questions, try it out, and tell others about what does or doesn’t work for you too. Just remember to step back, do your research, gather as much information as possible from as many sources as you can and take everything with a grain of salt.

An MLM can be good or bad. These tips might be useful the next time you’re trying to figure it out. 

This content was originally published here.

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